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Published on November 22, 2019

5 Easy Cooking Substitutes for Healthy Holiday Meals

5 Easy Cooking Substitutes for Healthy Holiday Meals

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we’ll eat many meals as we celebrate the holiday season with family and friends. Healthy eating can be hard when we’re surrounded by delicious holiday foods, but it’s easy to make your family recipes healthier by using cooking substitutes. Before you go gathering groceries, add these 5 healthy cooking substitutes to your shopping list:

#1. Choose Whole Grains over White Flour. When you’re cooking dinner rolls or choosing bread for your stuffing or dressing, use whole grains instead of processed white flours. Whole grains have essential nutrients that white flour lacks and contain more fiber to help you feel full. They also have a have a richer taste and texture.

#2. Swap Sodium for Spices. As you season your food while cooking or eating, reach for your spice jars instead of your salt shaker. Reducing your sodium by replacing salt is good for your heart and blood pressure, and herbs and spices offer many health benefits of their own. Not only are spices a healthier alternative to salt, but they are a tastier alternative, too.

#3. Use Heart Healthy Oils for Cooking and Baking. Butter, shortening and animal-based fats are high in unhealthy saturated or trans fats that can clog arteries and increase your risk for heart conditions. There are a variety of cooking substitutes for oils you can use when cooking and baking:

  • When cooking, use heart-healthy oils such as olive oil, vegetable oil or sesame oil.
  • When baking, use mashed bananas or unsweetened applesauce instead of oils for a little extra sweetness.

#4. Keep Dessert Sweet with Fruits. Fruits are full of nutrients and are naturally sweet, making them a great choice for healthy desserts. Using fresh fruits instead of canned fruits in your pies, cakes and crumbles can also help you cut back on extra sugar, and dried fruits like cranberries, apricots or raisins can serve as replacements for chocolate chips or candy in cookies.

#5. Cook with Fresh Foods Instead of Processed Foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients and lack the extra sodium or sugar found in canned goods. Swap candied yams with fresh-baked sweet potatoes to reduce sugar, make fresh cranberry relish for more antioxidants and use fresh green beans in your green bean casserole to reduce sodium. Fresh foods aren’t only healthier – they also often taste much better!

When you sit down to eat with family and friends this holiday season, remember to eat mindfully: fill your plate with a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates, eat slowly and don’t eat too much. The leftovers will be just as delicious the next day!

About the Author

Penny Crumpton, CDE, RDPenny Crumpton, RDN, CDE, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Instructor with Cone Health's Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services.